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Interview with Stephen Wilson

By Rhizome

steve.portrait.open.72.jpgStephen Wilson is a San Francisco author, artist and professor who explores the cultural implications of new technologies. His computer mediated art works probe issues such as interaction with invisible living forms, information visualization, artificial intelligence, robotics, etc. But most of all he's interested in exploring the role of artists in research. He is Head of the Conceptual/Information Arts program at San Francisco State University.

I actually first got to know his through his writing. When i started getting interested in new media art, i was so clueless about the field that i asked people who knew (and still know) much more than me about it which books they'd recommend me. Most of them advised me to get my hands on Information Arts: intersections of art, science and technology. I did. It's a hefty volume, a wonderful reference i usually turn to when i need some information on a particular aspect of the domain where science/technology and art meet.

You wrote "I am simultaneously awed and troubled about the course of scientific and technological research. Historically the arts kept watch on the cultural frontier. I fear that in the contemporary technology-dominated world they are failing that responsibility. Historically, the arts alerted people to emerging developments, examined the unspoken implications, and explored alternative futures. As the centers of cultural imagination and foment of our times have moved to the technology labs, the arts have not understood the challenge." but surely there must be some artists around who are doing a good job at engaging with the advances of research, don't you think so?

Yes, I didn't mean to imply artists were not involved in these kind of explorations. In fact, many of the artists highlighted on WMMNA are good examples of artists willing to engage frontier areas of research. But there are some problems. One is the mainline definitions of art. Technology/science art research is still marginalized as a fringe activity. In a technoscientific culture, artistic probing the world of research is a critical, desperate need.

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